In Australia, clergy are “coming out” for marriage equality in ever increasing numbers. This is because of their experience of working with people at the most personal of levels.
Through such interaction they have seen that profound love and deep commitment is at the very essence of the human person.
They also understand from science that an attribution of gay sexuality as sin and rejection of God, of being against nature and with a lifetime’s non-negotiable mandated celibacy is no longer acceptable intellectually.
Last month, 106 clergy presented a letter of support for marriage equality after a prayer breakfast at Australia’s Parliament House.
One of the organisers, Rev. Dr. Margaret Mayman, said, “We are working to raise up the voices of Christian people and people of faith who believe that relationships ought to be strengthened and supported in any way we can. And we believe this because of our faith, not in spite of our faith”.
So in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s hastily called strategic meeting on marriage equality in August, we remind people that the Christian Church has moved a long way on this issue.
Well-known lobby groups do not remotely represent the views of Christians in Australia. In fact, there is no single group that can claim such a position.
We note that a sizeable majority of Christian people are very supportive of marriage equality for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, friends and work colleagues.
These Christians are absolutely on board with our country moving to a position where committed loving relationships can be affirmed by society in civil marriage ceremonies.
We know from polling that, mirroring the general population, support for marriage equality in the Christian community has only been going in one direction—up.
The Galaxy poll (2009-2012) had support among Christians at 53% overall, but the 2014 Crosby Textor poll has it scraping 60%. That is not far off two thirds of Christians. A further breakdown of this figure shows the support as: Anglican and Uniting at 57% and Catholic at a high 67%. For Non-Christian religious folk, support is at 75%.
Now these are not insignificant figures, and they confirm what we see on the ground anecdotally. Grassroots Christians can see past the hysteria and the fear campaigns, and they are favourably disposed to lesbian and gay people marrying their partners and not so, despite their faith, but because of it.
The Christian Church has been on this journey now for some time.
It is looking at the traditional teachings, re-analysing Biblical texts and heeding the offerings of science. Refreshingly, an increasing number are seeing science as a partner rather than an opponent.
More and more church members and leaders understand that gay sexuality is a “wired-in” orientation, significantly genetically determined, emergent around the time of puberty unbidden, stable across the lifespan and unable to be changed. And they understand that the expression of love is an essential and powerful human emotion that we all have.
Christian theology and practice increasingly understands that LGBTI people need to be included and loved and accepted as much as anyone. There is also a deepening acknowledgement of the profound hurt the Church has caused LGBTI people over the centuries. And, thankfully, the work to humbly restore relationships and reconcile has begun in some places.
Many Christians know that Jesus himself could not have been clearer when he sidestepped all the religious rules and stated unequivocally that the greatest commandment of all is to love God and the second is to love your neighbour. And in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he made it abundantly clear just who our neighbour is.
We want to affirm the value of gay and lesbian people simply for who they are, and to also affirm their wonderful relationships, just as rich and deep and loving as any.
And we say that there is plenty of room and scope within the Christian tradition for gay and lesbian people to be fully included in our spiritual lives and liturgies.
As Christians, we say marriage equality is a good and positive thing for individuals, for couples and for society. Christian Australia is more than ready for this change.